General implicated in torture claims victory in Indonesia’s presidential election
Prabowo Subianto, a former general implicated in the disappearance and torture of dissidents under the Suharto dictatorship, has declared himself the winner of Indonesia's presidential election. | AP

A former general linked to past human rights abuses claimed victory Thursday in Indonesia’s presidential election. Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto presented himself as an heir to sitting President Joko Widodo, whose son was his running mate.

Before the final declaration by election officials, Subianto told thousands of supporters in the capital, Jakarta, that his victory was “the victory of all Indonesians.”

Subianto, who was once banned from entering the United States for two decades because of his human rights record, was an army general during the brutal and corrupt 32-year dictatorship of General Suharto, which ended just over 25 years ago in the archipelago between the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

He served as a special forces commander in a unit linked to torture and disappearances, allegations that he vehemently denies.

According to unofficial tallies conducted by Indonesian polling agencies, Subianto had won about 59 percent of the votes.

The final official count may not be finished for up to a month, but quick counts have provided an accurate picture of the results of all four presidential elections held in Indonesia since it began direct voting in 2004.

Subianto said in a speech from a sports stadium: “We should not be arrogant. We should not be proud. We should not be euphoric. We still have to be humble.”

Subianto, who married one of dictator Suharto’s daughters, was a long-time commander in the army special forces, Kopassus.

He was dishonorably discharged in 1998 after Kopassus forces kidnapped and tortured political opponents of Suharto. At least 22 activists were kidnapped that year, and 13 are still missing.

Subianto never faced a trial and denied any involvement, although several of his men were tried and convicted.

Subianto lost in two previous runs against President Joko Widodo but was the frontrunner for this election. His running mate, the outgoing president’s eldest son, 36-year-old Gibran Rakabuming Raka, was allowed to run when the Constitutional Court made an exception to the minimum age requirement of 40.

The court was then headed by President Widodo’s brother-in-law, who was removed by an ethics panel for not recusing himself.

The other two candidates in the election are Anies Baswedan, the former head of an Islamic university and governor of Jakarta until last year, and Ganjar Pranowo from the governing Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle but who did not have President Widodo’s support.

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Roger McKenzie
Roger McKenzie

Roger McKenzie is the International Editor of Morning Star, Britain’s daily socialist newspaper. He is the author of the book "African Uhuru: The Fight for African Freedom in the Rise of the Global South" published by Manifesto Press.